In a compelling memoir as timely and important today as it was when it was first published 70 years ago, a spirited young girl takes to the skies with the love of her life and returns to earth a worldly, wise and self-determined woman. Margo Rogers is a poetically inclined college student from a salt-of-the-earth Midwestern family. Frankie Kurtz is a wiry Olympic high-diver who left home at ten and raised himself on the streets. From its beginning, their love story is a soaring adventure. He teaches her to fly; ...
In a compelling memoir as timely and important today as it was when it was first published 70 years ago, a spirited young girl takes to the skies with the love of her life and returns to earth a worldly, wise and self-determined woman. Margo Rogers is a poetically inclined college student from a salt-of-the-earth Midwestern family. Frankie Kurtz is a wiry Olympic high-diver who left home at ten and raised himself on the streets. From its beginning, their love story is a soaring adventure. He teaches her to fly; she teaches him to trust. She becomes a wife; he becomes a soldier.
As Japanese bombs rain down on Frank’s position at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in the terrifying days that follow the attack on Pearl Harbor, from her base in the American prairie, Margo gathers enough strength of will to see them both through these dark days. Blackout curtains fall and wartime censors stand between her and any peace she might find in hearing Frankie’s voice. But Margo sets a course for her own fight, armed with imagination, courage, understanding, and a quiet insistence that waiting must be turned into living, lest separation become an abyss too deep to cross.
By turns hopeful and heart-warming, poignant and funny, My Rival, the Sky is a riveting personal history of Colonel Frank Kurtz, the most decorated Army Air Corps pilot of World War II. It is also a chronicle of The Swoose—an unstoppable Flying Fortress said to be “part swan, part goose.”* It is the story of Margo Kurtz, the force of nature who kept them both from falling. It is a story about the life we create when the world takes away the life we hope for: a powerful message for every military family, every spouse and parent held hostage by their love for brave men and women gone to war. It speaks for all who, from the home front, wage those inner battles through which a peacetime home is once again made whole.
*In the late 1940’s the Smithsonian Institution accepted possession of The Swoose, where it remained in storage until the National Museum of the United States Air Force acquired it in 2008. After a complete restoration, The Swoose will be placed on display at the museum
Margo Rogers Kurtz was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. While attending the University of Southern California, she met Frank Kurtz, then a daring young aviator and diving champion. After a long courtship which saw them separated for lengthy periods given Frank’s flying jaunts and obligations as an Olympic-level athlete, they were married in June 1939.
In witty dinner table repartee, she was the foil to her celebrated husband, and his staunch ally in every other aspect of life. She was the model wartime bride in the 1940s: industrious, beautiful, capable -- the perfect combination of stiff upper lip and fire engine red lipstick. She could pilot a small airplane, feed a small army, and fit nicely into those tailored peplum skirt suits that were all the rage.
Newspapers and newsreels couldn’t help noticing her as Frank Kurtz flew higher and farther, collecting scars and medals. Together they joined a host of celebrities on cross-country War Bond drives. Every time he and his celebrated B-17, The Swoose, made it home in one piece, it was a stunning blow in the cause of hope, and during World War II hope was highly prized.
So when it was put to Margo that she should write a book, she took it on as both self-expression and patriotic duty. She’d proven her writing chops with a number of articles for local papers and military publications, and Frank’s exploits had generated some buzz the previous year in the book Queens Die Proudly by W. L. White. G.P. Putnam’s Sons welcomed Margo’s home front side of the story and published her memoir, My Rival, the Sky in 1945.
Now in her late 90’s, Margo lives with her daughter, actress Swoosie Kurtz, in Southern California. They share this precarious time that is bittersweet and occasionally overwhelming, but every precious day is oxygenated with laughter, love and remembrance.